A brawl broke out between the deputies of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) in the Turkish parliament on March 4 over earlier remarks of a CHP deputy criticizing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Earlier, CHP deputy Engin Özkoç had slammed Erdoğan during a press conference for previously referring to a killed Turkish soldier as a “head” ("kelle" in Turkish).
“The one who calls a martyr as 'a head' is dishonorable, ignoble and a traitor [of the country]. The person who said this cannot be the president of the Turkish Republic,” Özkoç said, referring to Erdoğan's interview with Australia's SBS radio program in 2000.
A group of families of dead soldiers – who were killed in combat with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants – had at the time taken the issue to the court, leading to Erdoğan's paying a symbolic fine for his remark.
On March 4, just hours after Özkoç's criticism of Erdoğan, Ankara prosecutors launched an investigation into the CHP lawmaker on charges of “insulting the President.”
After Özkoç took the floor in the parliament to deliver a speech on the same day, AKP lawmakers rushed to confront him, causing CHP lawmakers to intervene in the incident.
Habertürk journalist Saliha Çolak described the incident as follows: “CHP deputies gathered in front of the rostrum. And then a hustle and fistfight broke out. There were deputies who clasped each other's throats. There were deputies who fell to the ground while throwing punches at each other. And women deputies tried to break up the fight.
Following the incident, the speaker of parliament, Mustafa Şentop, condemned Özkoç's statement against Erdoğan, saying: “It is not possible to expect for everyone to be of the same opinion. Of course, everyone has their right to express their opinions; however, uttering simple, characterless, vile statements and insults is not politics or freedom of speech. Insults against the President has no place under the roof of the parliament.”